Monday, May 13, 2013

Stars Through the Mist - Reprise

Whenever I write out the title to this one, I always want to call it "Stars Through the Midst"...which doesn't make any sense - but I suppose it's the seminary teacher in me (Luke 24:36 - KJV "...stood in the midst of them..."). 

Anywho.

I actually like this one quite a bit.  The title even helps a bit - although Botany Class in the Mist or Deborah Gets Kissed in the Catholic Orphanage would have been more descriptive.   Deborah is a dandy heroine, plucky and perhaps a teeny weeny passive aggressive("me, me, me also..."). My biggest problem with Stars Through the Mist is the bit about being lost (then found) on the moors...which is such a fabulous set-up for declarations of undying whatchamacallit...and then it simply fizzles.  Why Betty? Why?  I'm willing to give TGB a pass though - her finale in the orphanage more than makes up for the previous stalling.

I wasn't crazy about last week's hero because he's a suave man-of-the-world who, after sustaining a Youthful Disappointment and without really understanding his future wife at all, plonks a bloodless offer of marriage before a girl who loves him and then practically ruins her life. And, oh my heck, that's exactly the set-up for Stars Through the Mist. And I really liked it.

Somebody get a chapel and a choir to sing...!
Deborah Culpeper (Why does Betty Debbie get all the fun?) has turned down several offers of marriage.  She's a nice-looking 27-year-old Theatre Sister with a quiet, self-controlled manner and efficient way about her job.  This is probably all that Mr. Gerard van Doorninck, 37, knows for sure. 
On the strength of his assumptions, he follows her into her office at the ragged end of one very trying day and asks her as baldly as possible: How do you feel about marrying me?
Deborah must restrain the impulse to throw herself across the blotter (never mind the off-duty and the laundry rota) and grab at his lapels shouting ecstatically, 'Yes, yes, yes!!! A thousand times yes!', dancing off waving her nurses' cap and singing with glee,'Somebody's getting married!'
She has been in love with this man since the moment he asked her to hand him his first Langenbeck retractors more than two years ago and no amount of chatting up by eager young housemen is going to change that.
So, here we are.  Gerard, laboring under the false premise that her single status is because of her cold-fishyness and inner reserve, proposes a partnership. (The job description is your standard MOC contract deal: No implied conjugal relations, no pledges of mutual affection, run the home, entertain the guests, pour the tea, weather ill-temper, consent to treatment that the authentic Chippendale davenport wouldn't put up with, etc.)  He proposes because she feels safely encased in ice (as he is) and never guesses that her reserve is so absolute because for the last two years it's been quite a job stemming the tide of her nigh on uncontrollable passion.. 
I'd rather be miserable with
you than without you...
She tells him that she will give him his answer in a couple of days and works her way around to a Gigi-esque compromise (weighing her desire to be with him against her own potential for an awful life) and says yes.  But she wants to know about his marriage--the first one.
'Did you love your wife?' 
He said with a bitter little sneer which hurt her, 'All women are curious...' 
'Well, I'm not all women...and I'm not in the least curious...but it's something I should have to know.'
He doesn't volunteer much but Sasja, it seems, was a mistake. 
That's good enough for Deborah.  She consents to an elopement (Well, what else do you call getting married without friends or family and sneaking your wedding hat on in the car in case anyone should see?) and then they're speeding their repressed way down to her parent's home.
But just when you're grabbing the hankies and wondering how this will manage to avoid becoming theThornbirds they're chatting about room assignments and willing to toss for the dubious honor of faking a migraine on their wedding night in case Mama Culpeper wants to bunk them together.
And then we're off to Holland where, if we read the subtext right, Gerard still doesn't love his wife.  The evidence, Mr. Prosecutor, if you please:
  1. No Home Tour of Love--and worse, her new mother-in-law takes her on the tour instead of an anonymous, if well-loved, family retainer who will promptly forget the Master's carelessness.
  2. Gerard makes no mention of finding someone to give her Dutch lessons.  Sure, she rings up the ubiquitous Professor Wit but Gerard neither knows nor cares. I know he gives her a car but in Neels a car might simply mean, 'You may run your own errands.'
  3. Despite making her skin crawl, Gerard's cousin Claude van Trapp is allowed to run tame at her home.  
Yeah.  About that flesh-eating virus...Claude is a nasty piece of work.  His first bit of undermining is to tell her all about Sasja and to shoot poisonous darts at Deborah.  She's up to the challenge, however, and makes mincemeat of him.  And it's handy that Gerard overhears both his cousin's slander and his wife's defense (heroic defense considering she knew none of the details of her husband's life).  Out goes Claude on his ear and we'll catch up to him at the end.
The middle of the book then becomes a character study about how well Deborah manages to hold up under the grim conditions--her husband neither acknowledging her efforts (but then, the point is that he shouldn't see any effort) nor conceding an inch of hard-won independence.  She exhibits determined resoluteness to ignore that ravishing woman he was seen driving with, hurt and wonder (how was she to know he liked children?) that his relationship with her little sister, Maureen, should be so natural, sudden uplifts of  hope when he meets her at the ferry just so she won't have to drive home in a torrent, all that trying to learn his language and make friends with his friends, plunging despair when (in the wake of a tractor accident) he calls her strapping, and full of strength and common sense...
And just as you're at your wits end with these two crazy kids, Claude the Debaucher of Young Maidens waltzes back in through the sadly not dead-bolted door in the garden.  (And thank heavens he does or this balloon would have had a short and unhappy flight.)  He sees her trying on a wickedly expensive Gina FratiniFratini!) and she doesn't struggle as mightily as she might otherwise because, after all, she was wearing a Gina Fratini.  But she does slap him.  But Gerard, walking in unexpectedly, isn't of a mind to praise her heroics.  He only saw the non-struggling and when he dresses her down for being apparently willing, he deserves her scorn.  'I bought this dress because you told me to and I've charged it to you--it's a model and it cost over a thousand gulden, and I'm glad!  I wish it had cost twice as much!'
Deborah could have really used a handy
guide to inter-religious Dutch conflicts
Gerard goes out of town almost immediately and Deborah decides to pass her time by volunteering in a Catholic orphanage--a bit of a sticky wicket as Gerard is a Calvinist and there were some familial beheadings in the way-back.  (Deborah was probably very lucky that she hadn't wandered into an Arminian orphanage.  Actually, as Calvinists are big into predestination, it probably wasn't luck, per se...)
Gerard finds out that she's gone every week but doesn't know where.  'Where do you go Thursday evenings?' he asks. But he hasn't earned the right to ask and he knows it, so accepts her refusal to tell.
She is in a lorry accident and he's aghast she thinks he doesn't care two straws about what happens to her.  But now he wants to make headway and invites Deborah see his consulting rooms wherein he has a hot, nubile secretary.  (Hmm, thinks Betty Keira, puckering her brow.  If she's not on her way out and already sporting an engagement ring, then what is she doing in Neelsdom?)  It seems as though Claude the Debaucher of Young Maidens has finally found a girl willing to ruin her reputation in Nice (French for Brighton).  But Gerard walks in, assumes the worst (that his wife as arranged to snog his cousin at his place of business), clocks Claude and makes some wild accusations.  
Finally the secretary, on the way out the door with her lover, fesses up to Gerard.  (How does that conversation with the boss go, I wonder?  Mr. van Doorninck, I just don't like my retirement pension plan here and the dental plan isn't that good...so I'm running away to live in sin with your sleazy cousin.)  But it's too late to apologize.  Gerard returns to his house to find that Deborah has packed her bags.  She's going to Scotland.
In Scotland there is mist, St. Julian's botany class, and Gerard and stars.  (I would go on about this sometimes adorable interlude but I'm annoyed that Deborah and Gerard resolve nothing (nor does she extract a serious enough abasement and apology) while there.)
They return to Holland together and it looks like ruts will be stuck in but one day he finds her at the orphanage and catches her mid-game when her back it turned.   They sort themselves out amidst the clamor of young children.  He is agreeably ecumenical...
The End

Rating:  I loved the beginning.  Deborah is a near-tragic figure, swathed in a mask from head to toe, hiding her love away from a man whose first name she doesn't even know.  (High drama, Betty!)
The middle wasn't as good as its early promise, lingering too long on the placid day-to-day of life as a neglected wife in Holland but, then, that's sort of the point. Nothing ever happens to Gerard because Gerard doesn't let it happen and so Deborah's plan of action is to insinuate herself rather than bust molds and shatter calm.  The altercations regarding Claude van Trapp don't have quite enough set-up for me and I think Betty might have siphoned off some of her talk about tea and jewelry to give to him.  But then, he's a quite tantalizing character with lurid passions (spiriting off a young secretary to the French equivalent of Brighton--though, honestly, isn't the entire country just a great big Brighton?), fierce jealousy, and real meanness.
By the end, La Neels gives us a great walloping finish--the image of them embracing in a mass of orphans, young children of the kind that Gerard would have denied them both, is darling.
I give this a Boeuf en Croute.

Food: By agreeing to marry him, Deborah trades cold beef, salad and rice pudding for Supreme de Turbot Mogador. (Turbot is a kind of flat fish and I leave it to you to determine if her trade was a trade up or a mixed bag.)  

Fashion: Hospital masks which are symbolic.  A pinafore dress (you know my thoughts on these) in green ribbed silk.  Her wedding outfit is a pale blue dress and jacket with a wisp of a hat she doesn't put on until she's in the car so her friends can't see.  In Holland she wears a pink silk jersey and a soft lavender chiffon with a plunging neckline discretely hidden by frills  Rescuing the farmer she ruins a tweed outfit a replaces it with a white silk, long-sleeved, pin-tucked Gina Fratini number that cost the earth.

21 comments:

  1. I read this a couple of weeks ago. It's a top 20 for me and one I pull out regularly. I like how she is in love from the first page on! I think this book has some of Betty's most romantic lines: "That's our star...Do you not know that for every star in the heavens there is a man and a woman whose destinies are ruled by it? Perhaps they never meet, perhaps they meet too late or too soon, but just once in a while they meet at exactly the right moment and their destinies and their lives become one." Love the ending in the orphanage too. Le sigh.

    Betty AnoninTX

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  2. Hi - Caroline form Scotland here
    i love this one too! i think that the ending really is one of the best. Re the whole - why dosn't things get cleared up during the Scottish Mist scene - from one who has to live them fairly regular in the winter (and ....hey this is Scotland - sometimes in the summer too) Scottish mist's are not romantic. Dreich is a Scottish word - It totally explains the surroundings Debbie and Gerard would have found themselves in. Romance just cannot exists in them. now a thundering rain shower.... that's a different matter! But love love the ending!

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    1. Scottish Betty, Scottish Betty, Scottish Betty, Yay! I am so excited.

      Welcome!

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    2. Welcome! Yes, please, Betty in the Wild Scotland photos!

      Betty AnoninTX

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    3. Hi Caroline from Scotland, I'm Caroline from Texas! Welcome!

      Betty AnoninTX: Do I need to add a TX now? :)

      Betty Caroline

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    4. You girls are so funny. My face is hurting because I'm grinning all the time. I have a suspicion you all missed Betty Caroline(ann an Alba)'s first comment last year. On one of the Scottish œuvres in the Canon no less. Anyway, it's pretty exciting to have a Betty in situ, as it where, who can not only offer intelligent comments but add extremely interesting information. Dreich - what a lovely word (not sure if I've got the pronunciation right, mind you).

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    5. We need a forum or message board to keep up with all of our Bettys. :D

      Betty Caroline

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    6. Thanks for the lovely welcome. I have been reading this web page for about a year now but...um... only at work as I did not have internet at home (shush, don't tell anyone.).
      Now I have and I really look forward to being involved in all the commentary. Though i'm not sure - do I get an official "Betty" medal for joining? I thought I had to earn that privilege. Surely I don't get to be betty Caroline so soon????

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    7. Betty Caroline (ann an Alba), sadly, no official "Betty" medal, but, yes, the moment you join in the discussion you're an instant Betty. Yea!

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  3. I may be mistaken but I think we have another Betty from Scotland who has been to Mallaig.

    Ok, different meaning, but I cannot resist:

    Murk, wull and goustie was the nicht,
    And dreich the gate to gae;
    And sair did Evir's heart misgi'e,
    And heavy was, and wae.

    Loud rair'd the wind frae rock to cave

    ...

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    1. You go Betty A! Something about Scottish poetry gets me all fired up- love Robbie Burns, love the stories, love Scotland, full stop. Wild and free and unbowed, Scotland the Brave.

      Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
      Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
      Welcome tae yer gory bed,
      Or tae victorie.

      Makes me want to slap on my clan McCracken tartan and go wild! Welcome Betty Caroline!

      B von S



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  4. My favorite part of the book (on this re-read) had nothing to do with the romance. It occurs early on, in the OR. The patient (the second case on the list) goes into cardiac arrest during the operation. Deb and the RDD carry on, while the assistant nurse works with the anesthesiologist to stabilize the patient. Not a crash cart in sight! No 'code blue'!! The lucky patient survives, and is sent off to recovery, unaware that he had 'frustrated death'. Then everyone gathers in Deb's office for some well-deserved coffee. All of this recounted in TGB's laid-back style. I practically chocked on my tea when I read it. Why don't I remember this scene from the last time I read this book?!!


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    1. Oops-forgot to sign my comment--Betty Barbara
      (still gobsmacked by the whole scene!)

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    2. I know! Ever so casual. Several books refer to heart attacks in passing. I just finished Once for All Time (yet again) yesterday, and there was one mentioned.

      Betty AnoninTX

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  5. Stars Through the Mist is another favourite of mine. I have fond memories of re-reading it, time and again, in the late nineties. The magic was always there for me, right from the beginning. Still is - every time I read it. Sigh.
    17 Gerards audio on forvo.com (click on the arrows to listen). There is one Belgian speaker. Can you hear the difference?

    Oh, oh - Betty A. close to hyperventilating - I found a van Doorninck, Damiaen (DAH-mee-yahn), with an interesting job at the Netherlands Forensic Institute, in Den Haag/The Hague.
    More than twelve years of experience in government security related environments.
    [...]
    November 1999 – January 2004 (4 years 3 months)
    System Administration for the Communication and Information Systems section of the Royal Netherlands Airforce HQ.
    [...]
    Carnegie Mellon University
    Certification, Information Security
    2007 – 2007

    Activiteiten en verenigingen: Information Security, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Advanced Incident Handling, Arlington, VA, USA. Fundamentals of Incident Handling, Arlington, VA, USA.


    Squeeee

    Arlington, VA!!! Army Betty's home.

    But wait, there is more. Another Damiaen van Doorninck, and this one a general practicioner

    University of Utrecht
    specialist, Family medicine
    1994 – 1995

    Leiden University
    physician, Medicine
    1982 – 1990


    Ha!

    1996 - 1999 Tropical doctor in Suriname, South America
    2000 - now General practitioner in Heeswijk - Dinther
    2005 - now Linked to University of Nijmegen, department of family medicine as supervisor of trainees.

    Ha-hah!

    They are both Linkedin.

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    1. I wonder if I could network with the Arlington alum? :) Made my day, thank you!

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    2. Omitted an important fact regarding Damiaen van Doorninck, the physician. Actually, I erased it. Sooo stooopid. Has been bugging me ever since.

      Specialismen
      Tropical medicine


      Betty-ish elements: GP, studied at Leiden University, supervises students.

      Tropical medicine. Hm. Tropical medicine? Did we have anyone in the Canon...? tipp, tipp, tipp (translation: click, click, click. Betty A's German QWERTZ keyboard doesn't speak English).

      The Secret Pool

      He had someone with him. Not just Dr Stokes, who was the RMO; a tall man with massive shoulders, fair hair with a heavy sprinkling of grey and the good looks to turn any woman's head. Francesca sighed at the sight of him. She knew him, too: Dr van Rijgen, a specialist in tropical diseases who had come to the Infirmary at regular intervals to lecture the students. He lived in Holland and worked there as far as she knew, although he seemed equally at home in England. Years ago when she had begun her training she had had the misfortune to drop off during one of his lectures; even after all these years she remembered his cold voice, laced with sarcasm, very quietly reducing her to a state bordering on hysteria. They had encountered each other since then, of course, and she had taken care never to allow her feelings to show, and he for his part had never betrayed any recollection of that first unfortunate meeting. He eyed her now with a kind of thoughtful amusement which made her fume inwardly. But she replied suitably to Dr Stokes and Dr Beecham and then bade him a frosty good morning.
      He had a deep slow voice. 'Good morning, Sister Manning. I see that I must congratulate you since we last met at the Infirmary.' He glanced round the ward, half the size of those in a Bristol hospital. 'Hiding your light under a bushel?'
      She said in a voice which made his fine mouth twitch, 'If I remember aright, sir, my light was a very small one—a mere glimmer.'
      He gave a crack of laughter. 'Oh, dear, you have a long memory, Sister.'


      [...]

      'Well,' observed Fran matter-of-factly, 'I don't really know him, do I? He gave us lectures when I was training and he's given me instructions about patients on the wards... He was absolutely beastly to me when I was a student and I dozed off during one of his lectures. I think he laughs at me.' Clare shot her a quick look, exchanged a lightning glance with Karel and said comfortably, 'Oh, well, I should think he's forgotten about that by now—or perhaps he is making amends.' A fair girl, Fran said, 'I shouldn't have fallen asleep, you know —I expect it injured his ego.' Clare gave a little chortle of laughter. 'You know, love, once you've got to know each other, I think you and Dr van Rijgen might have quite a lot in common. He's very well known over here; did you know that?'
      'No. He comes to Bristol to lecture on tropical diseases, that's all I know about him.'
      'Well, he goes to London and Edinburgh and Birmingham and Vienna and Brussels—you name it and he has been there. A very clever laddie.'
      Fran had turned her head to look out of the window; Fran was a dear and Clare studied her.

      ...

      Sigh. Makes me want to go home and re-read it. Sigh.

      (Shhhh, Betty Caroline (ann an Alba), I am not at work, so there is nothing to tell...)

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  6. I was looking for information on turbot and found this little beauty as well:

    Dover Sole

    King of the soles!

    This superb fish inspired many classic dishes such as Poached Sole Bonne Femme, Sole Veronique and Sole a la Meunière. With dark brown skin and a longer and narrower shaped body than other flat fish, Dover Sole has a crisp white flesh, firm to touch, with an almost sweet taste.
    They range in size from 340g to 1.3kg.
    It’s also an ideal fish, as it’s often too firm to cook immediately after being caught, and is best after one or two days (around the time you receive it) when the texture and flavour is enhanced.
    400-450g fish are perfect for serving whole a la meunière - skinned both sides, dusted in seasoned flour and pan-fried.
    A 680g fish will provide two portion-size fillets.
    Small Dover Sole are sometimes known as Tongues (up to 280g) and Slips (280-340g).

    M&J seafood http://www.mjseafood.com/fishipedia-seafood-guide/species-information/flat-fish/dover-sole/

    Betty Anonymous

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  7. Hey, there was another Damiaen van Doorninck, Damiaen Joan van Doorninck, a POW during WW II who managed to escape. I am sure the Great Betty knew his story.

    (His mother was a jonkvrouw, his wife a barones, but they got divorced).

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  8. She doesn't go to Scotland - she goes to Twice Brewed near Hadrian's Wall which runs through Cumbria and Northumberland and is south of the border with Scotland.

    Do Google it all - the images will be terrific.

    Thank you so much for the site.

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